Delivered on October 6, 2018 at the Barn at Quarry Farm as part of the Quarry Farm Weekend Symposium "American Literary History and Economics in the New Gilded Age."
It should not be surprise us to learn that Cuban poet, patriot, and journalist Jose Marti was responsible for exposing Caribbean and Latin audiences to the writings of Mark Twain through his appreciative reviews published in the 1880s and 1890s. In claiming Twain for the wider Americas, Marti recognized a kindred spirit who also sought to strike through the era's decadent trappings and expose underlying economic injustice and hypocrisy. This talk employs Marti as a touchstone for relocating the so-called "American" literary imagination's active engagement with the Gilded Age's political economies to Marti's native Caribbean. It does so by focusing on how "Creole" and "brown" Caribbean literature authored by Marti but also by figures less well known to us today engages US empire and corporate expansionism according to what I identify as a layered "aesthetics of protection" in order to speculate about alternately annexationist, proto-nationalist, or federated Caribbean futures. By approaching the Gilded Age - or what Marti himself coined "La Edad de Oro" ("The Golden Age") - from an archipelagic vantage point, we might broaden the horizons of our understanding of the interdynamics between economics and literary-cultural production during the era.
Sean X. Goudie is Associate Professor of English & Director of the Center for American Literary Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is author of Creole America: The West Indies & The Formation of Literature & Culture in the New Republic (U. Penn, 2006), which won the MLA Prize for a First Book. Under his directorship, CALS has undertaken many important initiatives, including the founding of C19: the Society of Nineteenth Century Americanists and the First Book Institute. His current book project, entitled The Banana Republic, examines a range of cultural responses produced both in the Caribbean and in North America to the expansion of several US corporations into the Caribbean and the Caribbean Basin during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.